When asked to recount a scene from When Harry Met Sally, most people will jump immediately to the diner conversation. You know which one. But we keep coming back to the argument over a particularly kitschy wagon wheel coffee table. There’s something universal about it. Who hasn’t had to delicately tiptoe around the fact that you really don’t like something your significant other owns? Taste is subjective, but this experience is universal.
We got to thinking about how bad this type of interaction can be. Simmering furniture resentments quickly become festering animosity, after all! So, we’ve compiled a few strategies to promote stylistic and relational harmony.
Catch & Release
Proceed with caution, this technique can be risky! But, if executed carefully, you may be able to painlessly extricate yourself from a particularly heinous piece. Begin by choosing a replacement — and bringing it home. Suggest to your loved one that they may like to try something new. Whisk the offending object to another area or room. Remark how beautiful and wonderful and functional the new piece is. Repeat, and repeat often. Wait a few days.
Once you feel the replacement has become part of your routine, the time has come for the release phase. If your partner has become accustomed to the new piece, gently suggest the offending version be (for lack of a better word) “re-homed”. You can donate it to a worthwhile cause, or use apps like Craigslist or Letgo. That way, your piece’s new owner can also take care of the transportation. A win-win!
Mood Board to Victory
Use this opportunity to explore something new. This is the technique of compromise! A good place to start are sites like Pinterest or Instagram, where the mysterious and all-powerful algorithm can help you narrow in on a look you both love.
Begin curating photos that draw you in! You might be surprised by what pleases your eye, and your special someone may find that they don’t dislike “eclectic” decor as much as they think they do.
Use your new collection of design inspiration inform your decorative decisions. This is a particularly effective technique if both you and your partner find that your taste is different than you expected. Take your new mutually-agreed-upon style and revamp your whole look. Problem solved! Say goodbye to the 90s coffee table from that’s been following you around since college.
The Four Walls Technique
Then there’s the scientific approach. The peer-reviewed, research-tested approach. It’s a persuasive tool called The Four Walls Technique. Basically, you put your partner into a yes mindset. It works by conditioning the brain towards a positive response.
This Jedi mind trick works by leading up to your real question with several additional questions. These questions should be guaranteed ‘yes-es’. For example: “do you love me?” (yes). “Do you think our home should be beautiful and welcoming?” (yes). “Don’t you love the color blue?” (yes).
These yes responses lead into the real question: “Should we get this beautiful blue sofa, which is nicer than the hand-me-down couch from your grandma we are currently sitting on?” Boom. You’ve pre-conditioned your partner toward a yes to that one too. Excellent work.
It can be awkward, but as the saying goes, the truth will set you free. Just rip the bandaid off and avoid conflict down the line.
Face your design dilemma head-on and tell your loved one you don’t dig what they’re bringing to the design table. Be kind, of course. You’ll have to judge your delivery based on the magnitude of the disagreement and the level of style polarization. You may find that the disagreement wasn’t as bad as you thought!
As you confront your own (literal and metaphorical) wagon-wheel coffee tables, remember that life isn’t always like the movies. Harmonious homes are possible! Just avoid calling anything the “stupid, wagon wheel, Roy Rogers garage sale coffee table.” It never ends well.
Image: Picasso and his wife Jacqueline sharing lunch at home in 1957 with Lump the dachshund. David Douglas Duncan/Courtesy of Harry Ransom Center